Main   Quiz 8D71 by Richard Pavlicek  

Plus or Fishfood

Welcome to bridge purgatory. Face masks are required, not for health reasons but to avoid being recognized for past bridge errors. This may be the turning point of your life! Either straighten up and return to the bridge world, or transcend to the other side. Don’t worry; there is life on the other side, but you won’t be allowed to touch a deck of cards ever.

As South, you will declare 6 NT four times. But wait! Scoring is not the usual IMPs or matchpoints, or even total points. This will be the ultimate “make it or else” scoring, known as plus or fishfood. Either guarantee a plus score or go swimming — in a tank filled with piranha! And those little devils are hungry! Trust me; I’ve already lost two fingers preparing this page.

For each problem, decide how you would play to avoid the aquarium. Answers by two surviving participants follow each problem. No fair peeking!


You were hoping 5 NT might elicit spade tolerance, but 6 C was off the menu. Can you keep partner dry?

1. S 2
H Q 10 8 4
D A K Q 10 8 3
C K Q
None Vul West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 D
2 H
3 D
6 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
3 C
5 NT
6 NT
Lead: C 3TableEast plays C 2
6 NTS A K 10 9 8 7
H A J
D 2
C A J 5 4

Spoiler below

Nicholas Greer: Finesse the H J at trick two. If it loses, I have two spades, three hearts, three diamonds and four clubs, and can untangle them on any return. If the H J wins, cash the H A, cross to dummy with a second club and lead the H Q; again, opponents cannot tangle my entries.

Wojciech Papuga: Take the heart finesse. Playing H A, H J is no good, because a spade switch now ruins the communication.


Turnabout is fair play. After an eccentric 1 H response, partner springs the “pick a slam” on you. Good pickin’? Or swim time?

2. S 4 3
H A K 10
D 6 5 4 2
C A Q 5 4
N-S Vul West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

1 H
3 D
5 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
2 S
3 NT
6 NT
Lead: H 9Table
6 NTS A K Q 2
H J
D A K Q 3
C K 6 3 2

Spoiler below

Grant Peacock: Duck the heart (queen wins). On any return (if a heart pitch a club) win S A, C A-K and D A-K. If one defender guards both minors, win S K-Q (pitch diamond), C Q and finish hearts pitching a spade. If each defender guards one minor, win D Q, C Q and finish hearts pitching a diamond.

Sherman Yuen: Duck the first trick, then win S A, D A-K, C K-A and H A (pitch clubs). Either one of the minor suits break, or a simple squeeze in the minors, or a double squeeze with spades as the common suit.


This one might look easy, but remember Murphy’s Law. The piranha are swirling because they smell flesh!

3. S 6 5 4 3
H 5 4 3
D K Q
C K Q 10 9
E-W Vul West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

2 D
3 C
5 NT
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 C
2 NT
3 D
6 NT
Lead: S JTableEast plays S 8
6 NTS A K Q
H A K
D A 4 3 2
C A 5 4 3

Spoiler below

Nick Jacob: Win S Q, D K-Q and S K, then lose a diamond (pitch heart). Win H A, D A (pitch heart), S A, and finally H K throwing spade if not yet good. This will yield a count to reveal one defender who cannot hold four clubs.

Nicholas Greer: Unblock diamonds, return to hand in spades, then duck a diamond throwing a heart. If a diamond comes back, throw another heart. Now cash spade, D A and remaining heart(s) discarding a spade if it isn’t good. Now only one opponent can guard clubs. Important to cash D A before the last heart.

Nicholas’s last sentence is the crux of the problem. You do not want to reach this ending:

Notrump
Win all
S 6
H
D
C K Q 10 9
S
H ?
D J
C ?
Table S 9
H ?
D
C ?
South leadsS
H
D A
C A 5 4 3

On the D A you pitch a spade from dummy, but so does East. Now either defender could guard clubs, and you cannot tell which. But if South could lead the H A instead (having won the D A before) there is a lock: If East follows, he cannot guard clubs; if East pitches his spade, he must have all clubs.

While no matter at “plus or fishfood,” in actual play declarer should cash the C K (or C Q) early. This does not affect flexibility in clubs and might expose a stiff C J (or void) to ensure 12 tricks and be playing for 13 if spades break.


What’s with all the 5 NT bids? We know what the damn contract will be. Last chance to avoid a dunking!

4. S A K 7 6 5
H Q 3
D A J
C A Q 3 2
Both Vul West
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 S
3 C
5 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 NT
3 H
6 NT
Lead: C JTableEast plays C 8
6 NTS Q 2
H A K 10 9
D K 8 3
C K 6 5 4

Spoiler below

This was not a good problem, as it has multiple solutions. My plan was to win the C Q and S Q then run the H 10. When it loses, East cannot attack diamonds, so next win the H Q, S A and C A to reveal who guards clubs. Next lead the S K to reveal who (if either) can guard spades, resulting in a simple squeeze if the same defender, else a double squeeze with threats: S 7C 3 and D 8 (common). This is 100 percent… but, so are the following:

Charles Blair: Win the C A, C Q, S A and S Q. [Assume a show-out in both suits, else claim.] 1. If four clubs and 5+ spades in one hand, lose a heart to partner, then a simple squeeze. 2. If West holds spades and East clubs, win the C K then lose a club [to endplay East]. 3. If West holds clubs and East spades, run the H 10, then a double squeeze after discarding a club on the S K.

Grant Peacock: Win the C A, S Q and duck a spade. After any return, win the C Q. If one defender has four clubs and 5+ spades, run hearts then diamonds to squeeze him. If the black-suit stoppers are split, cash all black-suit winners, D K and D A; then if neither the S 7 nor C 3 is good, hearts must run.

Indeed, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.* Charles’s line is best in actual play, because it reveals a 3-2 club break immediately, then he’d be playing for seven at no risk; whereas my line may lose a trick unnecessarily, and Grant’s line always loses a trick.

*Um… as for skinning cats, I’d be afraid of a guy who knows even one way.

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Nick Jacob Wins

This contest ran from January 23 to February 22, 2021. There were 21 entries from 13 persons (multiple entries were allowed but only the latest one counted) of which only six were correct on all four problems. Too bad about the other seven; not only for their sake but for mine, as the filtration system in my aquarium is now clogged with flesh. Oh well; just another reminder that there’s more to life than having a free lunch.

Congratulations to Nick Jacob, who was first of the six survivors, ranked below by date-time of entry. Nick is only a recent participant, with several other high placings before this first win.

Survivor List
RankNameLocation
1Nick JacobNew Zealand
2Nicholas GreerEngland
3Grant PeacockMaryland
4Wojciech PapugaPoland
5Charles BlairIllinois
6Sherman YuenSingapore

Curious that the locations of the top four survivors all end in “Land”
So the secret to avoid being fishfood is simple: Stay on land!

Last Words

Sherman Yuen: On Problem 1 it felt like the spot cards were the fishfood. Or were they dried fish that turned red from the smoke? Either way, I hope they weren’t your fingers!

Grant Peacock: At this form of scoring I would have tried to play every hand in one notrump, not six.

Charles Blair: The Game is Afootagain!

Ah, he remembers, but the piranha are meaner now after 18 years in captivity.

Nick Jacob: Does the 250 character limit refer to the number of piranha in the tank?

No! Since I began these challenges, I’ve tossed 247 characters (would-be bridge players) into the tank.
Three more, and I’ve reached the limit. Should I retire then? Nah… buy another tank.

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© 2021 Richard Pavlicek